Tintinnabulation

The mysterious metals buyer

The London Metal Exchange, housed in a grand stone edifice on Fenchurch Street, exudes an air of ultramodern, professional efficiency. The 29 brokers sit in a circle on red leather banquettes surrounding the marble trading floor and make bids on seven metals (copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, nickel, tin and silver). For the past eight months, however, the exchange has been in turmoil. While prices for other commodities have been falling, the price of tin has been rising steeply. Since July, it has shot up nearly 30%, to more than $7.50...

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